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Last big weekend of fishing in Bemidji area has arrived

Labor Day Weekend is the last big weekend of the summer tourist season in the Bemidji area. Many schools around the country are already in session and many students from Minnesota will be heading back to classes next week.

Bemidji is too far away from most large population centers for two-day weekend visits so most visitors come to the Bemidji area for long weekends or extended vacations.

Once school is in session, the number of anglers on the lakes from other parts of the country drops dramatically, especially during the week.

The August full moon is tonight so anglers will have the option of fishing at night this holiday weekend.

Most anglers pursue walleyes at night but muskies, bass, crappies, sunfish and even bullheads can feed after dark and are all potential targets for night fishing.

The full moon provides enough backlight for fish to be able to see anglers’ presentations in the dark, especially near the surface of clear-water lakes.

Artificial lures can add flash to help the fish see the lures and vibration to help the fish “feel” the lures in the water, which helps predators target the presentations at night, even when traveling speeds up to 2 miles per hour.

Metallic colored lures like silver and gold reflect the light of the moon better than flat colors with no shine. Pearl colored or glowing lures are also good at night, because the fish can see them better in the moonlight.

Most walleye anglers use thin pencil shaped crankbaits at night rather short fat shaped crankbaits. Under most conditions, lures that dive 4 to 6 feet deep are deep enough. Sometimes even shallower diving surface baits are necessary to get over the weeds.

Anglers fishing at night should also consider using slightly larger lures than they would normally use during the day to give the walleyes an easier target.

Large deep lakes with clear water are usually the best lakes to fish at night for walleyes. These lakes often have a reputation of being tough to fish for walleyes during the day, especially with bright skies and light winds.

Fish like things easy when they can get it, just like most other creatures. Eyesight is the greatest advantage for the walleyes. Catching things to eat at night during a full moon is easier than catching things in full sunlight when their prey can see them coming.

Anglers fishing at night also want things easy. Fishing larger lakes with long stretches of good trolling water is easier than fishing a small lake with tight breaks and lots of tight turns and a limited amount of good trolling water.

Two of the more popular lakes for night fishing in the Bemidji area are Leech Lake and Cass Lake but there are many more good lakes for anglers to fish at night.

The August full moon period can be good but the September and October full moon periods are usually the best night fishing days of the year for big walleyes.

Anglers can fish up to four days before the full moon and several days after the full moon, so there is usually about a one-week window each month for night fishing.

Anglers with a dock on a lake should try to go out to the end of the dock this weekend and see what they can catch on a floating minnow lure or safety pin spinner with a little night crawler or scented plastic on the hook.

The day bite for walleyes has been a little spotty on some lakes on days with bright hot sun and little wind. Fishing has been best on days with a little breeze, especially when the wind is from the same direction for two or more days in a row.

The hot weather has surface water temperatures back on the rise. Most lakes have water temperatures in the low to mid 70s.

The warm water temperatures have summer fishing patterns holding on most lakes, with spinner rigs working well for walleyes in most situations.

Anglers are also finding perch on the edges of flats, sunfish on the deep weed edge and crappies suspended above the thermocline near structure.

PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at